Experts' View: Ceres Negros vs Home United
Kuala Lumpur: The 2018 AFC Cup recommences on August 1 with the much-anticipated ASEAN Zonal Final between Ceres Negros and Home United. We turn to two Southeast Asian football specialists to preview the tie.
Familiar foes Ceres Negros and Home United will clash in the 2018 AFC Cup's ASEAN Zonal Final on August 1 and August 8 when the 2017 ASEAN Zonal finalists meet once more in this year's edition. Filipino club Ceres also faced Singaporean side Home in this year's Group Stage, with the latter edging them out on head-to-head record to top Group F.
The-AFC.com spoke to two experts ahead of the vital tie to get their views.
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How big a match is this for your nation's club side and football in your nation respectively?
Tupas: Reaching the final of the AFC Cup ASEAN zone for the second straight year is a significant achievement as it is for Ceres Negros and retaining the title would once again underline the club’s status as one of the best teams in the region.
A win by Ceres that comes a few months after AFC Asian Cup qualification gives the country another historic moment which Philippine football can use to attract more support for the sport, the national team, the league and the clubs.
Tan: It's clearly a big match for Home United. Given the dominance of Albirex Niigata (S) in Singapore football recently, clubs like Home and Tampines Rovers haven't had much of a chance of success so this is an excellent opportunity for Home.
This is a re-match from last year's ASEAN Zonal Final, what are your memories from that series of games?
Tan: I remember last year's ASEAN Zonal Final clearly. It was a fitting finale between the two best sides from the zone. Both with outstanding individuals but also playing well as a team, so it was certainly a terrific 180 minutes.
Tupas: I remember the second leg at Panaad Stadium, where Ceres scored a 2-0 win. Although OJ Porteria and Kota Kawase knocked in goals, the support of the home crowd simply pushed them over the line after losing the first leg. That match also marked the return to form of Stephan Schrock, who broke up attacks and started the Busmen’s own forays in one of his more impressive performances.
How do you see the 2018 version playing out?
Tan: I think the absence of Bienvenido Maranon will be a huge blow for Ceres. Yes, they still have many other quality individuals but 'Bienve' just adds that little extra bit in front of goal. Given how last year's final panned out, I believe the Busmen will still head into this tie as favourites but that's not to say Home don't have a chance themselves.
Tupas: With Bienve Maranon out due to suspension, Ceres will miss one of their most important players going forward and top scorer. Ceres vs Home has always been a tight defensive battle for both teams and it looks like it is going to be that way in the zonal finals with Ceres bossing possession and Home absorbing pressure and looking to counter.
Who, in your opinion, are the key players in this match, and why?
Tan: For Home, it's impossible to look past Song Ui-young given the season he's had. With seven goals in the AFC Cup and almost as many in the league, he's really added another dimension to his game. But, just behind, I think Home's captain and midfield enforcer Izzdin Shafiq also is a crucial player of the team and doesn't get as much recognition as he deserves.
Tupas: There’s an abundance of talented attacking players for Ceres, but one player in form at the moment is Patrick Reichelt, who seems to be rejuvenated after the past couple of years when he battled injuries. With Maranon out, Ceres would need goals and I think Reichelt is a reliable source. His pace, aerial prowess and a knack for being at the right place at the right time could be key in giving Ceres an advantage in what should be a tight contest
And finally, which team do you feel has the edge in the tie? What do you predict the score will be?
Tupas: This will be the fifth and sixth meetings for both teams in the AFC Cup and by now, they are already very familiar with each other’s style of play and the players' tendencies. I think it will be down to Ceres’ ability to break down Home’s sturdy and resolute defence. The Busmen have a slight edge with their quality and experience, but Home cannot be counted out as they have shown their never-say-die spirit in the competition. I feel it's going to be another high-scoring tie with Ceres ultimately winning 4-2.
Tan: I think Ceres will still enter this tie as the favourites but that could actually be beneficial for Home as it takes away some pressure. The fact that the Protectors have also tasted victory in Bacolod this year will be a huge confidence boost. I'm predicting a 2-2 draw in Bacolod, with Home to nick it with a narrow win in the second leg.
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